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World's Wackiest Souvenirs

Filed Under: Australia, Japan, Shopping, Thailand

Postcards may be last-decade, but at least they're normal. Travelers have begun to embrace a new crop of souvenirs to bring home from their vacations, gifts that truly tell the story of their journey — and we're not talking ships in a bottle. From snake whiskey in Thailand to 3-dollar bills in Papa, New Guinea, odd souvenirs are becoming extremely popular, representing destinations in a most not-so-boring way.

We rounded up some of the world's most bizarre souvenirs that are humorous, eyebrow-raising and, quite often, stomach-churning. Nonetheless, they're all guaranteed to make any recipient remember exactly where they came from.

Tony Bowden, flickr
Snake Whiskey
Southeast Asia
In Southeast Asia, farm-raised creepy-crawlies (such as scorpions, cobras and centipedes) are being stuffed into bottles of local whiskey and left to steep for several months. Then, the bottles are sold in local mini-marts and served at restaurants. The general taste — as you can imagine — is quite rancid, but apparently the contents serve as a fixer-upper.

For centuries, according to traditional Chinese medicine, whiskey infused with these little creatures have been used to treat back and muscle pain and to reinvigorate a person. Further, until recently, the elixir was said to be an aphrodisiac. The exotic bottles often come packed with ginseng root or other herbs, and rice wine or grain alcohol has also been the liquor of choice. A 250-ml bottle costs around $10 and can be found in Vietnam, Thailand and Cambodia.
3-Dollar Bill
Cook Islands
The old adage "queer as a 3-dollar bill" was coined because 3-dollar bills were a rarity … but not in the Cook Islands. A 3-dollar bill is a real note in the country's currency. But it's not only bizarre because it's an atypical denomination, the bill comes in both pink and blue, and the image printed on the front is a naked woman riding a shark (from the Cook Islands legend of Ina and the Shark). In fact, there are more $3 bills outside the Cook Islands than inside, as tourists keep taking them. It's an unusual but colorful gift. Best of all? It only costs $3.
deepwarren, flickr
Stuffed Cane Toad
Queensland, Australia
In 1935, 101 cane toads were imported into Queensland (via South America) to control sugar-cane pests. The toads never really did a good job, and, without predators, they hugely multiplied (60,000 young toads were produced from the initial 101 within 6 months). Ultimately, cane toads became a domestic problem with an unfortunate impact on biodiversity, native animals and aboriginal bush foods. By the 1970s, locals got fed up and decided to … well, stuff them.

All over the state in various markets you can find cane-toad taxidermy, with the toads featured in silly and various poses such as with a cricket bat, travel bag or beer in hand. Each cost approximately $25, and cane toads also come as backscratchers and bottle openers thanks to taxidermist Kevin Byrnes. And as a bonus, cane toads remain an issue, so buying a toad theoretically helps save Queensland!
Christian Kadluba, flickr
Tuttuki Bako
Japan
It's nearly impossible NOT to find a strange souvenir in Japan. "Inventive" is an understatement in this country, and cool and quirky souvenirs abound. Whether it's lime-soda-flavored Kit Kats or the Pill Towel (a pill that transforms into a towel when water is added), gifts are never a problem after a quick stroll through the streets.

The Baby Cry Analyzer -- a gadget that determines why your baby is crying, hungry, sad, annoyed, etc. -- almost took the cake, but the most bizarre souvenir goes to the Tuttuki Bako. This "poking box” launched in 2008 as an interactive game: You stick your finger in the box hole and a digital representation appears on the screen imitating your finger motion. Other games are included, like terrorizing a tiny stick man or poking a girl in the face. The toy is around $30 and truly bizarre. But oh so Japanese.
Chad Miller, flickr
Alligator Head
Savannah, GA
Savannah, GA, is popular for its swamp tours and the stealthy predators that live in them: alligators. A large number of visitors have a crush on these creatures of the night. Thanks to 24e, a furnishings boutique, tourists can take home the jaw-clenching reptile as a token of remembrance — well, its head, at least.

The only store in historic downtown to sell real alligator heads works with the state's only certified trapper, Trapper Jack, to provide cast-plastered alligator heads for the home (rest assured, there's no poaching involved with their stock). The majority of the customers, surprisingly, are affluent women. According to 24e owner Ruel Joyner, there's a movement with organic things like taxidermy, skulls and bones coming into modern and traditional places. Prices start at $60, depending on the size, and the store sells 12-foot gator heads, which is a rarity.
Anantara Golden Triangle
Elephant Dung Coffee
Anantara,Thailand
Nope, it's not a typo; it's a delicacy. The Asian hotel chain Anantara Resorts just released the most exclusive — and most expensive — coffee in the world, and it has elephant poo-poo in it. Allegedly, when the coffee bean is digested and then excreted by a Thai elephant, it produces a rather smooth cup of java. During digestion, the elephant’s enzymes break down the coffee’s proteins, and since protein is a main factor responsible for bitterness in coffee, less protein equals less bitterness.

The coffee blend Black Ivory is sold at their four Maldives properties and the Anantara Golden Triangle in Thailand (where the elephant camp is located). Expect to pay about $50 for two cups! Travelers are purchasing the 35-gram packet to bring home as a souvenir for $35. That's still an expensive shot of eleph-espresso, but you’ll never taste coffee the same way again.

About the Author

Jimmy Im is NYC-based travel writer, TV host and instructor, as well as the cofounder of OutEscapes.com. As an avid traveler, Jimmy has trekked the globe for exciting adventures, from taking a cargo vessel to the Marquesa Islands to bullfighting in Spain (seriously!). If he's not discovering new territory, Jimmy can be found in the comfort of his Lower East Side neighborhood.

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